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Ten Thousand Hours: a novelette

Updated: Jan 1

When I start writing, it isn’t always clear if what I’m doing will end up as a short story or novel; I just have this germ of an idea I want to explore, and if I’m lucky it takes on a life of its own. Whereas my first book, “Fire Horses”, was the result of twenty years of drinking, fighting and – um - “socialising” in London, “Out of Office” was based around a simple premise: how long you could work in an office without colleagues noticing you’d gone insane.

“Ten thousand hours”, which has just been published by the brilliant “Prole Books”, was based on Malcolm Gladwell’s idea that it takes around ten thousand hours of practise to become successful at pretty much anything. This weird tale of a man who goes to live in an abandoned town in the Australian bush started as a short story and almost became a novel; in the end, it clocks in at around 8,000 words. This is a problematic length for a piece of fiction.

a piece of short prose fiction. The distinction between a novelette and other literary forms, like a novella, is usually based upon word count. The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America Nebula awards for science fiction define the novelette as having a word count of between 7,500 and 17,499, inclusive.”

ten thousand hours

The terms novelette and novelettish can also be derogatory, suggesting fiction which is "trite, feeble or sentimental

ten thousand hours

Originally I planned to make the story exactly ten thousand words long, but that seemed a bit contrived so I went in the other direction, attempting to slice as many extraneous words as possible while retaining meaning. This pared-down style seemed to suit the raw, dangerous landscape of Western Australia where the story is set. Here’s the opening paragraph:

“From the porch Miller squints down the rugged coast toward Karratha and up Port Headland, a 240-km bite into the one/one million map of a blasted nation; the endless sweep of a continent adrift, red sand slices holding back ocean. Behind, thin red tsunamis of outback rock.”

To read the rest of ten thousand hours, plus fiction by Adrienne Silcock, Sue Pace, J. H.Martin, Keith M. Judge, Lara S Williams, James Tobias and Jason Vandaele, and poetry by some fine poets (including Prole’s first “Laureate”, Helen Ramoutsaki), you can purchase issue 4 of Prole here.

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